Have Merci

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      When living in a world where nearly everyone I meet is American, it’s easy to forget about how many cultures there are and how different they are from my own. On this trip I’ve realized how much I take for granted being American. I’m surprised it has taken me twenty six years to truly step outside of the U.S. — in the future I intend to put more effort towards learning about other ways of life, and from now on I will strive to become a citizen of the world. There’s no substitute for experience, and I’m grateful for every day I spend on holiday experiencing new cultures.

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      After missing the street performers in Amsterdam I spent a few days walking around Paris and planning out the rest of my trip. I enjoyed seeing some of the Parisian touristy sights, but going on three weeks without working had me nervous about doing too much spending. The relief of English I’d felt in Amsterdam faded once more in France, where they’re known for not knowing English. After four spontaneous days flitting about Paris I hopped on a plane to Dublin.

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      Going through immigration I ran into a little speed bump. While on the road I’d been referred by other travelers to a website called workaway.info. The site essentially arranges for travelers to find hosts and exchange volunteer work for housing and meals. While hanging out in Paris I arranged to spend two weeks helping a family build a shed outside Dublin. It’s a non-paid program, so I assumed there would be no conflicts with my no-visa travel plans. Unfortunately, the immigration officer saw things differently, for the moment I mentioned “workaway” he pulled me aside and put me in a 6×8 room with a few chairs, one of them occupied by a stressed-looking Middle Eastern woman.

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      Twenty minutes later I was interrogated on the intentions of my stay, and where I would go now that I wasn’t allowed to stay with the hosts I’d arranged. Obviously I was withholding the fact that I was a professional performer, because the moment they discovered that I’d be under suspicion of coming to Ireland to perform for pay, which is illegal without a work visa. I was not able to convince the officers that I’d be able to support myself for the entire month I’d intended on visiting Ireland, but thankfully instead of deporting me they stamped my passport with a two-week limit. Asking around after the incident it’s quite likely that the immigration officer was mistaking workaway for another program, and it’s still questionable whether or not I’ll obey the two week limit or ignore it completely and stay through July like I intended. I have another six days to decide, and I still have much of Ireland to explore.

      As for Dublin, I’ve had a great time and have finally stumbled upon a place with an active street scene. Along Henry Street and Grafton Street musicians set up every few hundred feet, and a handful of circle shows set up at either end of Grafton. I came to Ireland for the World Street Performing Championship, which is inaccurately named because it is not an open competition and consists of only a handful of booked acts. However, while researching destinations for the trip it was one of the few places I found with guaranteed shows, so I put Dublin on the map of places I’d be visiting. I signed up for a permit at City Council and set out to working another new spot. It’s been a relief to finally be performing again, and the money I made in the first weekend has replenished my waning confidence in my ability to make it traveling through the summer.

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      I’ve been staying in an old church that has been converted into an International Youth Hostel. Affordable enough, it’s been great interacting with other travelers and hearing accents from all over the world. Just yesterday I heard an Italian guy say “Ah, da meat ‘a balla!” and it was a million times better than anything I’d heard on television. I’d booked the hostel for a full week with the exception of Saturday, the fourth of July, when the hostel had no availability. Instead of booking an overpriced room I decided to once again leave my night up to chance. I’ve learned to love putting myself out there and trusting that even if it doesn’t work out, it’ll still work out. After all it couldn’t be worse than the last time in Amsterdam (could it?).

      I’d met a Spanish girl from Canada the day before and she’d invited me out to drinks with her coworkers. Unfortunately it was a clique-y group of fancy hotel staff. The girl that’d invited me was preoccupied with her friends and after a few hours I’d not really made friends out of any of the rest of them. Fortunately, we were seated outside the bar, and as I was returning from getting another drink I heard someone say “Hey Niko!”. I looked over the railing and shook hands with a guy that introduced himself as Rue. He was on his way home from playing a gig at a nearby bar, and he’d seen one of my shows on Grafton Street earlier that day. He complimented my work and went on his way, only to return twenty minutes later saying some of his friends decided to meet him there at the bar.

      I invited him to sit at the end of the hotel crew table with me and we chatted for a while about Ireland. The hotel group rose from the table and announced they were going to a club, my Spanish friend motioning for me to come along with her. I’d enjoyed the fifteen minutes spent speaking with Rue more than the two hours I’d spent with them, so to her surprise I motioned them along and said I’d be staying. Rue and I continued to chat about life in Ireland and about its history, about which he seemed fairly knowledgeable. Shortly thereafter his girlfriend and her friend joined us, and within the hour they’d graciously invited me to stay with them at their home just outside of Dublin. We ended up talking till light began creeping back into the sky, and in the morning Rue made a delicious breakfast before sending me on a bus back to the city. I checked back into the hostel, cleaned up, and set out for a Sunday of street shows.

Sometimes a leap of faith is your only available mode of transportation.

Stay tuned for more adventures next week.